Sleep. Remember that?

Lulu naps... now that she's almost 3!

Lulu naps… now that she’s almost 3!

I am the Mommy whose baby didn’t sleep. Ever. The only way I could get her to nap in those first few months was to put her in the Moby Wrap and bounce on the exercise ball. It was torture! While my other Mommy friends were taking walks together and having lunch with their sleeping babes, I was bleary-eyed and useless. Then, I surrendered. I researched the heck out of sleep training and schedules. Here, I share with you my favorite sleep tips.

  1. Get blackout blinds and a white noise machine. Make the room dark, cozy and womb-like. Trust me on this one
  2. Develop a routine. We did bath, bottle, book and bed (no later than 7pm) at night and bottle, book, bed during the day. There are lots of good sample schedules, too. Sleepy Planet’s is my favorite: http://www.sleepyplanet.com/schedule.html
  3. Let Baby soothe himself, at least a little bit. As The National Sleep Foundation puts it, “When infants are put to bed drowsy but not asleep, they are more likely to become “self- soothers” which enables them to fall asleep independently at bedtime and put themselves back to sleep during the night. Those who have become accustomed to parental assistance at bedtime often become “signalers” and cry for their parents to help them return to sleep during the night.” Try giving him a Silkie or other breathable, crib-safe soothing apparatus
  4. Give Baby time to rest, even if she doesn’t nap. According to prominent pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson, babies need 16 hours of sleep per day. Ideally, that looks like 12 hours at night and 4 hours during baby’s 3 daytime naps. Even if all you get is a little rest yourself, it’ll help you both
  5. Let Daddy help. Feel guilty that he’s got to work tomorrow? So do you. Let him take a feeding or 2 every night. Because Mommy’s got to sleep to be a good Mommy and that’s a fact!

Any questions? Please post them. Every Mommy has her own best tips. Maybe you’ll get some great answers from the Mommy Concierge community.

In the meantime, I’m rooting for you and your baby. And, “this, too, shall pass.”

A la Peanut Butter & Ganache Sandwiches!

Last week Lulu and I bought Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies from our normally outstanding Trader Joe’s, but they left us flat. The peanut butter flavor in this dry cookie was recessed and the chocolate chips tasted chalky. When I want peanut butter, I want PEANUT BUTTER. And, if King Chocolate is going to be paired with Queen PB, they’d better be equally matched. Inspired by a recipe for a pb & chocolate sandwich inDeb Perelman’s new The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, I decided to get my fix by creating my own version.

All you need for the cookies is pb, sugar, egg and baking soda. Simple!

All you need for the cookies is pb, sugar, egg and baking soda. Simple!

My favorite peanut butter cookie recipe is by far the simplest but, let me tell you, it packs a strong flavor punch:
1C
1C sugar
1 large egg
1t baking soda

Blending

Blending.

1. Blend ingredients until combined

Scooping.

Scooping.

2. Using a 1T scoop, form into balls and place on cookie sheet

Scoring.

Scoring.

3. Score each cookie crossways using a fork liberally dipped in sugar

Baking.

Baking.

4. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes
Maybe it’s the lack of butter and flour, but this cookie is potent, with a soft center and crisp edges. Perfection.

What to do about the filling? Ms. Perelman combines melted chocolate, peanut butter, butter and salt into a delicious, goopy filler, but I wanted a pure contrast. I opted for a rich ganache. Here’s how I do it:
1C
1/2C heavy cream
1t vanilla

1. Heat cream just until boiling
2. Pour over chocolate chips and let sit 2 minutes
3. Whisk cream and chocolate together
4. Add vanilla and whisk again
5. Cool to “spoon-able” consistency

Ganahce on upside-down cookie.

Ganahce on upside-down cookie.

Once the cookies were baked and the ganache chilled, all I had to do was spoon about 1T ganache on the backside of half of the cookies and them smush another cookie atop the filled one. In order to congeal these babies faster so we could consume them, I put them into the fridge for about 25 minutes. But, they’d firm up on their own after about an hour at room temperature. If you can wait that long, more power to you!

Cross-section of Yumminess.

Cross-section of Yumminess.

Et, voila!

Et, voila!

The soft peanut butter centers gave just enough to the deep chocolate flavor. They make a perfect afternoon indulgence or strong finish to a light meal. Let me tell you, these beauties are rich, sinful and 100% worth it. Just how I like my sweets!

Sweet February Fun

Who throws a Valentine’s Day party in preschool? No one! With the pressure off, I thought we’d have a little Love-themed play date for my 2-1/2 year old daughter Lulu’s school friends which would serve 2 selfish purposes: 1. I’d get to meet the other moms (carpool leaves us all disconnected) and 2. I’d have to unpack some of the boxes scattered about from our December move and get my house together.

Valentine Invitations

Valentine Invitations

The invitations were Hershey bars wrapped in craft paper and bakers twine accompanied pink hand-written party details on buckslips from Paper Source. Each invitation had a couple of hearts pasted on (made from a 2” heart punch) before being slid into red string-and-button envelopes.

The snacks.

The snacks.

Heart Cookies. Yummm.

Heart Cookies. Yummm.

Snacks were kept simple and nut-free by serving squishy applesauce, gold fish crackers, mini boxes of raisins, fresh strawberries and a cheese plate plus bottled water and juice boxes. For the finale, we used red, pink and white Valentine sprinkles and sparkly gel icing tubes to decorate sugar-cookie hearts that were frosted with buttercream.

Banners. I made these!

Banners. I made these!

Party room.

Party room.

The house was decorated in flag banners made by slicing triangles on my paper cutter using Valentine craft paper that I then strung onto gold yarn and hung at multiple levels across the party space. We threw Lulu’s hot pink chevron printed teepee in the corner of the room which added flavor, play space and covered up the fact that we have yet to buy proper furniture. The kids’ table (actually a 6’ folding table from Target propped onto storage bins to make it kid-height) was covered in a conversation-heart themed cover I bought at Home Goods.

Valentine centerpieces.

Valentine centerpieces.

Centerpieces were jars of varying sizes with paper lollipop-style Valentines and filled with Valentine-colored M&Ms, Hershey’s Kisses and Conversation Hearts. We rented kid-sized chairs and put a foam heart and bubbles at each place setting. The little ones were supervised by our fabulous babysitter Jessica who made valentines with them by covering the foam hearts with all kinds of stickers including sparkly sticky jewels.

Cookie making.

Cookie making.

Working hard!

Working hard!

Eating.

Eating.

The kids had so much fun with both crafts – the valentine and the cookie decorating – and most of the moms were able to breathe a bit knowing Jessica was leading the charge. It was indeed fabulous to get to know the other parents but the best part of all was seeing my own little one in her hearts dress handing out favors (goody bags filled with Valentine-themed treasures from Target) to her friends and generally having a grand old time. Lulu’s happiness, as always, was the best valentine of all.

My Lovely Vaneltine.

My Lovely Vaneltine.

Parents are New, Too!

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We find out we’re pregnant and get into action. We take the pre-natal classes, read a book or two, create a killer baby registry and talk to our friends who are moms. We go into parenthood feeling fully prepared. Then, the baby is born. (Gulp.) Yikes! Here’s how this Mommy came into being.

Lulu was born. We took her home. I recovered from the c-section. Jeremy went back to work. Struggling to breastfeed a reflux-y infant, keeping on top of baby laundry, changing diapers, walking dogs and receiving visits from family and friends, I had no time to eat nor take care of myself. I felt lost. Afraid. Not that I could articulate that at the time.

I went into a manic panic that nearly broke the bank. If I could fill our nest with the very best things, would I be fulfilling my duty as a good parent? Nothing relaxed me. Nothing.

Now that Lulu is 2, it’s clear to me that as our daughter was a newborn, so were her father and I: newly born, never-before parents. Part of me was flailing and vulnerable to the world, and yet I was expected to have command of the situation. A mother knows what to do, we are told. How could I possibly cope with the guilt and dread of not knowing? What would become of my child if I wasn’t in charge?

Of course, I realize now, I was in charge. I did “know” what to do because every day was filled with the doing of it. Baby was growing, prospering, smiling, talking, singing, sitting, crawling, and laughing – perhaps despite me. I was then and am still engaged in becoming a parent. Like you, I love my child and want to be the best mother I can. My mother-in-law, finally frustrated with all my reading, outside advice and quotes from parenting specialists told me to “go out into the forest and see what kind of mother YOU are.” So, I did. That comment started me on my journey to becoming a mother, although the baby was already here.

A recent article stated that it takes most parents about 4-1/2 months to feel like they’re getting the hang of it. In my case, it was closer to Lulu’s 8-month mark. She was finally sleeping, weaned, crawling and playing. It took that amount of time to see the books, parenting experts, sleep specialists, pediatrician, nurses, grandparents and well-meaning friends for what they were: bumpers in the pinball game of my own intuition. My path to parenting confidently included seeing a therapist for post-partum anxiety, joining a stellar parenting group, developing a few close friendships with like-minded mommies, and re-reading books like “Becoming the Parent You Want to Be” and “Your Self-Confident Baby,” all of which solidified my parenting “style”. It took a village to make me a parent, but becoming the mother I am actually made me more myself. I trust myself better, love myself more and tolerate my imperfections with more compassion.

I don’t presume to have the market cornered on parenting. There are little failures (and sometimes big ones) on any given day. But if I can mostly remain intentional, engaged and empathetic, then, when my head hits the pillow, I know I’ve done my best to raise a confident, loving, compassionate human being. A human being whose existence has brought forth some of my darkest fears and given me the fortitude to conquer them.

Just think, now I have 10 years to prep for parenting an adolescent!

Full disclosure: I started this post before the current Carter’s ad campaign began running that uses this same idea. After seeing the TV ad, I put the post on hold but have decided that the article addresses more than the topic of the campaign. I hope you agree.

What to Feed the Baby?

I was thinking tonight about what I used to feed Lulu when she was a baby and how similar her meals are now. We started her on pureed squash, sweet potato, spinach, broccoli and peas at 5 months interspersing that with breastmilk and/or formula. These are still her favorite vegetables and I regularly puree or finely dice and toss them into pasta for a healthy main course.

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At 6 months we added baby-safe grains, then at 7 months pureed fruits. I’m so glad our baby girl had a period of time – however brief – before she became a sweets addict like her mother (that would be cake-loving me). She will now eat any kind of fruit in pretty much any form and told us tonight that all she wants for Christmas is chocolate chips. Hmm.
At one year we dropped the formula (she had weaned at about 6 months), added pastina, brown rice, oatmeal, plus other soft foods like salmon and strawberries and have never looked back. Oh, and we dropped the bottle at 11 months, too. Yes, it took a few weeks to convert to a straw cup, but it was so worth not having to argue with a 2- or 3-year old to give up her bottle!
These days, a typical breakfast is a whole grain waffle with berries and yogurt; snacks are fruit or organic crackers like Annie’s Bunnies; lunch is a tofu hot dog, broccoli and an apple; afternoon snack is usually something more like a cookie and dinner is the aforementioned pasta with pureed or chopped vegetables. No matter what, I try to remember my parenting teachers telling me to focus on what our daughter eats in a week, not a day, and I never force her to eat anything.
For now, she still eats anything we give her. But, from what I hear, by the time she’s 3 all she’ll want is chicken nuggets, hot dogs and french fries. Until then, I’m going to keep sneaking vegetables into everything I can!

Richmond, Are You Ready?

Walking the rocks at the James River.

Walking the rocks at the James River.

It’s been a while since I posted anything and I’ll tell you why: we’ve moved to Richmond, Virginia from Los Angeles. The 4 weeks before the move on September 14th felt like a constant panic attack, mostly because my Type A personality insisted on seeing everyone I love as often as possible, eating every food I love (Sprinkles Cupcakes DOES have a storefront 2 hour away in DC, but, still) as much as possible and obsessing over what to buy for my new winter wardrobe (as though that HAD to be done before we left!). In any case, we’re here now and things are progressing rapidly. I really had it all figured out in LA from parenting groups to toddler dance and swim classes to baby stores to the best places to play and when. Add to that, after seeing 7 preschools and finding – and somehow getting into – the very best one in Santa Monica, we’re starting from scratch here in Richmond. I drove 40 minutes through 3 tolls (each way) for my daughter to play at an indoor play space today because I had no idea how far it was. There MUST be something closer and I will find it!

I am so excited to explore Richmond with Lulu (and Jeremy, of course!) and uncover all that is baby and toddler about this very family-friendly place. Get ready, Richmond, Virginia, because the Stabiles have landed and our little family is going to be all over this town!

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TheMommyConcierge.com!

Happiness!

Happiness!

Whew! After a long and arduous process, I am elated to report that we finally won the domain TheMommyConcierge.com! Woo hoo!

You might be wondering why I would blog about this, but for anyone who has started a business and struggles daily to make a go of it, you understand why this win is not so trivial. We had the .co and the .me rights and could not secure .com, even with the help of a broker. Somehow the owner allowed the registration to lapse and I had a permanent bid placed on any possible auction. Last week, I got an email saying I had won TheMommyConcierge.com, but I had to call the broker myself to make sure the email wasn’t a fake. I pinched myself when he told me it’s true – it’s mine.

Just for today, it’s all good. I am The Mommy Concierge, here to help Mommies and Daddies with their baby registries, nurseries and resourcing questions. And, you can find me at TheMommyConcierge.com!